HoSThe new Head of Service, Niger State, Hajiya Salamatu T Abubakar, mni, who recently concluded studies at Nigeria Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos, was sworn into office at Government House, Minna, recently. After the exercise, she granted interview toNewsline, during which she spoke of her dreams and the ongoing staff screening exercise. Excerpts:

Newsline: You have made history with your appointment as the first female head of service in Niger State. How do you feel?

HoS: Naturally, I am extremely happy with the appointment, and I want to thank the governor of Niger State, Alh (Dr) Abubakar Sani Bello, who conferred that role on me out of the generosity of his heart. Of course, in a service as huge as ours, there are many competent people to choose from, but the governor, out of his own wise counsel and generosity, decided to invest me with the office of head of service. I lack enough words to convey my gratitude for the confidence and trust he reposed in me.  Indeed, my family and I owe him inestimable debt of gratitude for considering me worthy of the job without gender bias. I think this appointment speaks volume of the character and disposition of the governor; that in running his administration, he would be fair and equitable with all groups, that there would be no gender discrimination. Indeed, our governor is a great supporter of affirmative action for women, as you can see that in his blueprint for the state, called AHE&WE, there is women and youth empowerment enshrined in it. Women are totally carried along in the affairs of the state.

Newsline: Your office recently issued a circular, which required civil servants to submit themselves to another round of staff screening exercise. In the life of this current administration, there must have been at least two other staff verification/screening exercises in the past four years, including the one by Nigeria Labour Congress. Is there no end to this phenomenon of screening and staff verification exercises? Civil servants are complaining that the phenomenon subjects them to extreme hardship. What is your take on this?

HoS: Well, the only thing I will say is to appeal to civil servants to bear with the exercise, because the purpose of conducting staff screening or verification exercise is connected with the superior goals of government, to improve service delivery in both quality and quantity. That, you will agree with me, is tied to availability of resources, which, from time to time, suffer from diversion to unaccountable sources, such as ghost wokers. We must not be tired with these exercises because of the temporal inconveniences we undergo, because even our own welfare as civil servants, promotion benefits, training and retraining, and  the equipping of the service to motivate or give us job satisfaction is affected by this ghost workers’ syndrome. Many of us do not know that we are the first victims of this ghost workers’ syndrome, when resources that should come to the service even for its development go to a few, skyrocketing recurrent expenditure beyond reality and tolerance. That is at the micro level; at a macro level, the entire society suffers because resources that should go to the development of communities, to the provision of services, to the alleviation of poverty go into some selfish pockets. Let us see this exercise as good and beneficial to all of us, except that minority that benefits at our expense.

Newsline: What is your appeal to the civil servants?

HoS: As I said earlier, they should be patient and support the process, not only by their swift compliance, but by their understanding. That will go a long way to quicken this process. By the way, you will discover that the ongoing exercise is facilitated by online capture of staff biometric and service data. This will eliminate much manual work, which in previous exercises used to consume time, and ease the process. Once the electronic data capture has been done, the physical screening is a walk-over, merely to match the face with the identification of data generated online.

Newsline:Hajiya, any final words for the civil servants you inherit?

HoS: As we kick-start the Next Level of good governance in the state, much is expected from civil servants; they must be productive, vibrant, dedicated, and result-oriented. That is the only way that we will serve as a formidable force of the executive arm of government, the engine room for the realization of the noble programmes of the government. I have confidence in and admiration for the dedicated and courageous men and women who serve in the state civil service, one way or another, and who, through their patience, personal sacrifices, and perseverance, have brought us this far. I, therefore, call on all staff in the service of Niger State to kindly give us their co-operation and support. On our part, we will facilitate the creation of enabling atmosphere of fairness for their comfort, decent remuneration and good service delivery. Our primary goal shall be to maintain the proud heritage of our dear peaceful state, as we earnestly take staff to the highest standards of integrity, discipline, and professionalism. We also shall reward staff for the best use of their common sense, wisdom, experience, expertise, talent, skill, and dedication to work. The office of the head of service of Niger State will continue to stand solidly behind the administration in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes towards all-inclusive governance, gender balance, and the creation of wealth and opportunities for all Nigerlites.